Dag Norberg's analysis and interpretation of Medieval Latin versification, which was published in French in 1958 and remains the standard work on the subject, appears here for the first time in English with a detailed, scholarly introduction by Jan Ziolkowski that reviews the developments of the past fifty years. Norberg examines various theories of Medieval Latin metrics and proposes his own insightful empirical solutions. His interpretation brings much needed clarification to a controversial and misunderstood subject.
In the first four chapters of the book, Norberg analyzes the sometimes perplexing technical elements of Medieval Latin metrics: prosody, accentuation, synaeresis, diaeresis, prosthesis, elision, hiatus, assonance, rime, and alliteration. He then turns to some of the metrical devices of the poetry: acrostics, carmina figurata (shaped songs), and the like. Two chapters unravel the problems of quantitative and rhythmic verses. Two chapters are devoted to the fractious disputes among scholars over rhythmic verses, which are based on the stress accents of the words. Norberg evaluates the various theories and judiciously examines this area of Latin scholarship. The final two chapters discuss the relationship between music and poetry, considering such questions as, which was written first, the melody or the words? How can we tell? What is the origin of rhythmic poetry? Beginning with the earliest hymns of Augustine and Ambrose, he considers syllabic melodies and then the development of non-syllabic melodies. In the last chapter Norberg deals with the "poetry in liturgical prose" of the Christian religious service, a "poetry" borrowed from the Bible or based on Biblical models.
"A magnificent book. . . . Norberg was one of the outstanding linguists of his generation. This book not only is the first (and often the last) aid one needs for the very complex subject of Latin versification, but also provides important insights into other aspects of medieval poetics and aesthetics."―Prof. Janet M. Martin, Princeton University
"Norberg is still the text on medieval prosody."―Prof. Maura Lafferty, University of North Carolina
"A classic work, by far the best work of its kind, and a book that every medieval Latinist needs to consult at some point."―Prof. Michael Lapidge, University of Notre Dame
Grant C. Roti is Professor of English and Jacqueline de La Chapelle Skubly is Professor Emeritus of French, both at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Jan Ziolkowski is Professor of Medieval Latin at Harvard University.
"The translators are to be praised for their work, as is Jan Ziolkowski for his excellent introduction and, one gathers, other sorts of aids throughout this project's completion. This fine, sturdy, affordable book makes available to a much wider and mainly student audience an indispensable work that has now gained a new and well-justified lease on life. Its appearance will make teaching medieval Latin poetry that much easier; the volume will also make accessible to a much wider audience the intricacies-the beauties-of an aspect of medieval Latin studies too often maligned when it is not ignored. If this translation remedies that disfavor and neglect, it will have done enough and more than enough for its prized topic."-Joseph Pucci, New England Classical Journal
"Translators Grant C. Roti and Jacqueline de La Chapelle Skubly have done an excellent job of rendering Norberg's unpretentious French―as well as Greek, Latin and German prose quotations―into English. . . . This is a great book which any medievalist of classicist interested in post-classical Latin poetry can now own in English. . . . Ziolkowski and the translators have together breathed fresh life into a venerable work that deserves to be widely available and well known to new generations of scholars and their students."―Thoma